ROBERT SIEGEL, host: Singer and guitarist Dave "Honeyboy" Edwards has died. He was considered the last of a generation of musicians who brought Mississippi Delta blues to the rest of the country. Edwards 96.
NPR's Elizabeth Blair has this appreciation.
ELIZABETH BLAIR: Honeyboy Edwards was born in 1915. He grew up in segregated Mississippi during Jim Crow. His dad was a sharecropper, but the young Edwards did not work in the fields.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG)
DAVE HONEYBOY EDWARDS: (Singing) When I first I heard the (unintelligible), rode that bus from town to town.
BLAIR: He figured out he could make more money by playing music on the weekends. But back then, a black man would be thrown in jail if he was caught not working during the day. In 2008, Honeyboy Edwards told NPR's Andrea Seabrook that he just didn't go out until evening.
EDWARDS: I didn't come out until 5 or 6:00 in the evening. That's when everybody was coming out of the fields, they don't know whether I been in the field or not.
ANDREA SEABROOK: What'd you do all day?
HONEYBOY EDWARDS: Sleep all day. Sleep, cook and eat, stay in the house. That sun is hot, anyway. I ain't out there.
BLAIR: So Edwards left the hot sun and tried to make a living on the road. He was a teenager when he learned from and played with older musicians who've become legends - Son House and Robert Johnson. Tom Piazza, author of "Devil Sent the Rain," says they were the pioneers of the Delta blues, a style that influenced everyone from the Rolling Stones to Bob Dylan.
TIM PIAZZA: The Delta blues is some of the strongest and most concentrated blues that you can find, and, you know, life in the Mississippi Delta during the time that musical form was coming up was about as tough as you can get. And Honeyboy was probably the last living link that we have to that era.
BLAIR: Honeyboy Edwards made his first recording in 1942 when musicologist Alan Lomax went to Clarksdale, Mississippi, and recorded him for the Library of Congress.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
EDWARDS: (Singing) (unintelligible) since you went away, how much I'm gonna worry all night and day. But someday, baby, ain't gonna worry my life anymore.
BLAIR: Edwards made a few commercial recordings in the 1950s, but mostly he made a living playing in small clubs in Chicago, where he eventually settled. In his memoir "The World Don't Owe Me Nothing," Honeyboy Edwards said he'd been hustling all his life and by the 1960s, he was tired. So he got jobs working construction to support his family. He got back into music in the 1970s when he met musician Michael Frank, who recorded Edwards.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
EDWARDS: (Singing) (unintelligible) be just like Jesse James.
BLAIR: The raw simplicity of country blues is what Honeyboy Edwards said he always liked. When he was 92 years old, he told Dan Bindert, of WBEZ in Chicago, less is more.
EDWARDS: You don't have to play a whole lot of guitar to be a good blues player. Some people plays too much guitar.
DAN BINDERT: Too many notes?
EDWARDS: Yeah. Stack them on top of each other where it don't - you don't allow it to cook. You're working too fast. Blues not supposed to be played fast. Blues supposed to be played slow.
BLAIR: You could kill a man, said Honeyboy Edwards, with just one chord. Elizabeth Blair, NPR News.
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